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Mark Richardson: why I refuse to play cricket

The sports reporter, TV host and former Black Cap reveals he left his dark days on the pitch to pursue a life he loves.

By Morgan Johnston
Mark and wife Mary

He was one of New Zealand’s most reliable batsmen in his time, but former Black Cap Mark Richardson loathes the thought of picking up a bat again.

Mark, who represented New Zealand between 2002 and 2004, still gets invited to play the odd game, but admits he usually tries to wrangle his way out of it – preferring instead to spend time with his wife Mary and their four-year-old twins Annabel and Charlie.

“I hate playing cricket now,” the 40-year-old presenter says with a cheeky grin. “I was thinking the other day, if it was a bloody good cause, I’d offer to umpire a match though.”

Mark admits that while at times the demands of the game mean it’s not enjoyable to play, off the pitch it’s still a game he loves to watch and commentate.

Known for his quick wit and wry humour on Prime’s sports entertainment show The Crowd Goes Wild, summer is Mark’s busiest time of year as he also works on The Cricket Show and commentates matches across New Zealand.

“When the cricket’s on we always have the TV on so the kids can listen for Daddy’s voice when he’s away,” says Mary, Mark’s wife of seven years. Mark’s schedule can be a bit of a juggling act and Mary’s part-time job as an Air New Zealand flight attendant throws an extra couple of balls into the mix.

Her work might see her away from New Zealand as much as three days a week, but it’s a job Mary loves and is made easier by the help of their German au pair, Valerie.

“Valerie’s brilliant, but I like to have at least one parent at home,” says Mary. “I’m the queen of swapping [shifts] now. I miss the kids terribly while I’m away. Every time I come home in that taxi, it’s like Christmas.”

But being a busy, travelling mum does have its upsides. Mary is able to use her Air New Zealand travel perks to visit Mark while he’s out of town doing cricket commentary.

Her work also regularly sends Mary to San Francisco where she can meet up with her sister Sarah, who worked for several years as a nanny for Star Wars director George Lucas’ family. “I get to have dinner with her twice a month. I probably see her more than if she lived here," she says.

Mary’s changeable work schedule means Mark has taken up a lot of the daily parenting tasks. His daddy duties include walking the twins to kindy every day and to swimming lessons once a week.

“Some fathers get up at 7am and go to work, then come home at 8pm – that’s what’s expected for 90% of people. I’m lucky, I get to spend a lot of time with the children.”

Raising twins can spell double trouble at times, but Mark and Mary agree things have become easier as the kids have grown.

“At the start, it’s harder to have twins, rather than just one child,” says Mark. “In the first few years we were feeding them through the night and they weren’t on the same routine – it was very hard. But now it’s easier than people who have kids of different ages because they go off to school at the same time, and play together.”

Although he’s reluctant to step back on the cricket field, Mark’s wellbeing has improved since he was at the top of his cricketing game. He says the sport is “rife with depression” and that in his playing days the individualistic nature of the game could get him down.

“Self-loathing – you feel it all the time in cricket,” he says. “You might get yourself out and then you hate yourself and then you have lots of time to stew over it. Our best cricketers ever, without naming names... I can’t think of a single one that’s normal.”

As a cricketer, Mark’s nickname was Rigor, short for rigor mortis, due to his slow running between the wickets and lack of agility in the field. But these days, running is something Mark, who has several gruelling marathons under his belt, now relishes.

A few years ago running became essential when he was getting up at 4am to work on the morning show for Radio Sport, followed by The Crowd Goes Wild in the evenings.

“If I didn’t fit in an hour of running a day while I was at Radio Sport, I was heading toward depression. The fact I had goals to achieve with running and I only had one spare hour to achieve it – that saved me from getting some mental problems,” says Mark.

Although he’s frank and self-effacing about his dark days on the pitch, the presenter is keen for team sports to be part of his twins’ lives.

“I think it’s important to play a team sport when they’re young, because sport is as much about social development – which is ironic coming from me. Any cricketer reading this will think I was a selfish [one],” he jokes.

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